Round and About in Old Isleworth

TIS started off as The Friends of Old Isleworth subsequently widening its remit.  In its early guise, the 1954 Chairman’s Annual Report included “Nazareth House - confirmed by the Council that it is still part of its policy to acquire land for the purpose of a public footpath”. The Council never fulfilled this policy but the good news is continuation of the riverside path from Herons Place to Richmond Road near Railshead opened 13th November 2017 as part of a hard fought for condition of the planning consent for the former Nazareth House site.   Regrettably the developers did not mark the occasion but no-one can deny the continuous new path provides a tremendously enhanced experience for pedestrians.

The Richmond Road site can now once more rightly be called Isleworth House estate. When the Sisters of Nazareth relinquished it, terms stipulated Nazareth must no longer be used.   On the subject of the new properties there, it was reported last issue Tree Preservation Orders had been placed on two lime trees the developers wanted to cut down. Permission for this was refused but a further application was made to drastically cut back what was claimed were “dead, dying or diseased branches”.  This too has been refused citing the trees are of high value to the Conservation Area and the extent and nature of works proposed was not justified by the arboriculture advice provided to substantiate the application.

After some two years of requests from TIS the neglected railings along the river front from Ferry House’s wall received attention. Most eroded wooden posts have been replaced by metal, other wooden ones painted. The style remains the same.  It was in the 1960s, when the embankment was raised 18 inches to improve flood defences, most posts were installed as replicas of what was there before, using the original metal caps.  Railings outside the Headmaster’s House also received a lick of paint.   Saturday 7th October saw the spruced-up railings decked with bunting to celebrate a project launch as a prelude to possibly restoring Isleworth Ferry.  Among those present to trial this was Marcus Gadd, ferryman when the service briefly re-started in the mid-1990s.  The boat used this time was a Thames Skerry, a cross between a skiff and wherry, designed by Richmond boat builder Mark Edwards. It was 2007 when LBofRichmond purchased the ferry rights, on behalf of Thames Landscape Strategy, with the intention of reinstating a service before the end of that decade. This was put on hold for financial reasons. The new plan is to operate a regular service for a 3 month trial this summer. Lessons learnt from this will determine whether long term operation is feasible. Among hurdles to be overcome are financing upgrading steps on both river banks, re-instatement of a boardwalk at Isleworth’s foreshore to allow low tide access and finding a ferry operator.  If full service resumes a skerry will be used making it the only rowed ferry on the tidal Thames.

The controversial decision to close Church Street to motorised traffic received a ‘highly commended’ Urban Transport Design Award. This cites strong support from environmental charities wanting to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians with the decision referred to as “simple but not easy”.  The judges acknowledged there were strong arguments for and against but found on balance the Council had made the right resolution for a notorious rat run.  A downside to this is increased complaints from residents of anti-social behaviour, leading to meetings with local Police and Councillors to discuss possible mitigation of problems. One result is that a mobile CCTV van was positioned in front of All Saints’ Church for some time.  

When the Council suggested naming new flats at 12-14 Shrewsbury Walk abutting Magdala Road with Welsh and Latin interpretations of “Shrewsbury” this did not appeal.   Alternative ideas TIS put forward were “Ayres” after Alice Ayres, born 1859, who lived in Magdala Road.  She rescued 3 children, by throwing them from a burning flat to be caught by waiting crowds below leading to her own death aged 26.  Also put forward was “Francis Weld” the first missionary rector of the chapel attached to former Shrewsbury Place. He served the community for 44 years from 1854.  On arrival he found the chapel too small and replaced it, also opening a boys’ school, both at his own expense.  The latter evolved into St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School, South Street.

Work has started erecting 29 McCarthy & Stone retirement living units at 174-8 Twickenham Road, permission coming following a successful appeal against LBofH’s refusal of the application.   Suggested names for this were Garvin, after the family which purchased adjacent Holme Court and became best known for distribution of Bears Honey from their factory, and Poppe as a reminder that from 1914 a rubber works was on the site. The third, Beck Gardens, has been chosen, commemorating Edward Beck a wharfinger who operated a fleet named after the virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, from an eponymously named Isleworth wharf and whose house once stood on the site.

Consternation was caused by an application to change use of Park Road Cemetery Chapel (Grade ll listed) to a community workshop for practical craft and engineering projects by vulnerable adults, run by Hounslow Men’s Shed. Scant detail was given leading TIS to raise reservations as it did not seem an obvious suitable location.  Consequently, a site visit took place with Men’s Shed, Council Leader and Conservation Officers.  While there is no doubt decades of neglect have taken their toll on the structure, clearance and cleaning work undertaken reveal the chapels in better than might be expected condition, but substantial sums will be needed to make them usable.  Installing electricity is likely to cost c£55,000.  It was confirmed both chapels are to be used plus the mortuary.  An amended application and fuller explanation of proposed usage gave sufficient re-assurance for TIS to withdraw previous comments. 

Hounslow Council chose busy December for an overload of consultations varying from instigating car parking charges at Isleworth Leisure Centre and Redlees Park; details of how suggestions for inclusion in the Heritage Local List will be assessed, to a Review of the Local Plan setting out aspirations for planning in the Borough 2015-2030.  The latter consisted of 11 documents, some hundreds of pages long, a daunting task to read let alone comment on.   On the one for the Great West Corridor, covering a wide swathe of the Great West Road from Osterley to Chiswick TIS made a substantive response.  The main thrust of this was the failure to demonstrate sufficient capacity to achieve the vision of sustaining 4,800 new homes and attendant facilities/infrastructure, maximise employment, while respecting the historic environment.  

In the small print of the Local Plan was a review of existing sites allocated for building, among others, a proposal for 40 units on Osterley station’s car park with a small amount of parking for commuters, and building 179 units on Park Road Allotment Gardens.  TIS made strong representations opposing the latter citing the various existing Plan policies it contravenes.  TIS also objected to the proposed removal of Green Belt protection to 100 hectares of Open Space west of the Borough for large scale development linked to Heathrow Expansion.  See TIS website for submission details.

During November Hounslow Highways spruced up benches in Lower Square including replacing one.    TIS’s additional requests for railings and bollards to be repainted and replacement of litter bins still await fulfilment as does improving the paved area.   Replacement heritage style lighting has been implemented at the Square as well as in other agreed locations.  It was February 2015 that TIS, with other local groups, objected to initial proposals to replace heritage style columns, citing poor appearance, quality of light and adverse impact on the character of areas involved.  A lengthy discourse followed. Fortunately the Council listened resulting in Cabinet approval of higher quality DW Windsor lighting columns and appropriate fixtures at an extra cost of £122,364.

Hounslow Highways is undertaking an ambitious holistic Boroughwide cleansing of targeted roads identified as requiring action to bring them up to standard.  This involves use of mechanical and manual cleansing; graffiti removal, gully cleansing, as well as addressing overgrown vegetation.  It is being undertaken because scheduled cleansing has been unable to properly access all areas, primarily due to parked cars, resulting in a build-up of detritus.  To enable the work there will be temporary parking restrictions and a vehicle re-location service for each road to be cleansed. Advance signage will be placed on relevant roads to inform residents and secure co-operation of vehicle users. Enforcement Officers will inspect each road to identify overhanging vegetation and abandoned vehicles 4-6 weeks in advance.   This programme commenced in the west of the Borough in December and will work through the central area to the east during 2018.  Further details and listing of affected streets can be found on Hounslow Highways’ website www.hounslowhighways.org

The Council’s new recycling facility at Southall Lane is now up and running.   Built at a cost of c£22m the aims are to avoid expensive landfill charges and enable income to be generated from the sale of processed waste collected from households weekly to achieve 50% of local waste recycled by 2019.  While it was being built access by residents of Space Waye Recycling Centre was restricted.  This re-opened 18th December providing a 7 day a week facility 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  From February residents can once again sign up to have their green waste collected on a fortnightly basis at a cost of £50.

On 9th April 2018 management of the Borough’s parks is scheduled to transfer from current contractor Carillion to Green Space 360 Limited an off-shoot of the Council’s wholly owned company Lampton 360. The intention is to provide an improved service.   On the subject of parks, during November Friends of Silverhall Park held two half day clean-ups, netting innumerable sacks of cans, bottles and litter.   Among the haul was a bath, Thomas the Tank Engine and inevitable traffic cones. The band of volunteers carrying out the work were well supplied with refreshments provided by South Street café.  Subsequently there have been meetings with the Leisure team and a visit by a London Wildlife expert to discuss future management of the nature area bordering Mill Plat. It is also good to report the damaged mulberry tree continues to survive. 

Excellent news for the former Pit Park at Northcote Avenue is that the relevant Friends’ group’s preferred candidate Astronaut Kawada, after an exhaustive tendering process, was awarded the contract for initial work and procurement process to kick start proposals to transform it into a nature reserve.  Meantime, All Souls’ Church offered some trees for the area following a church initiative and these were planted during National Tree Week.  There is no progress to report on the outcome of the Village Green application. 

At Redlees Park it has taken a year but the second Worton Road gate and railings squashed, presumably by a lorry, have now been replaced by sturdy new ones. It remains for a sign to be reinstated to show it is a park entrance. Late December saw notices appear indicating that on Saturday 27th January Trees for Cities will plant an orchard in the park; these exhort residents to vote for their favourite tree, tell them about the park, and sign up to plant a tree on that date – more information is at www.treesforcities.org/redleespark.  Detail of work on the children’s play area, due to start in January can be found at www.hounslow.info/activespaces.   The aim is to open the refurbished facility in Spring.  Meanwhile last November it was announced that, as part of a £2m Leisure investment programme across the borough, the lagoon pool at Isleworth Leisure Centre would benefit from an improved viewing area with a special window to ensure privacy; new ceiling lighting and updated facilities around the main pool area.  The aim is that during the works at all times one pool will be available for use.

It’s been a long haul but the RFU has finally agreed with Richmond Council to move back some of its western perimeter fencing to allow construction of a walkway between Chase Bridge and Whitton Dene along the Duke of Northumberland’s River.  It will be somewhat akin to the improved path between Twickenham Stoop and Chase Bridge.  Care will be taken to ensure as little impact as possible to a colony of water voles that live there.  Meantime an Environment Agency project is underway involving lowering Mereway Weir, Twickenham, to improve flow of the Lower River Crane which suffers from diversion of most of its flow to the Duke’s River.  Real time monitoring to observe water depth and ecology is in place although it is not envisaged measures will alter the current flood risk of either river.  On an allied subject, the Council installed a finger post at Worton Road bridge highlighting a Duke’s River walk but indicating Redlees Park was located in Oak Lane. This has now been rectified.

Atfield House St John’s Road rounded off 2017 with a celebration of 20 years caring for the frail and elderly.  This coincided with a complete refurbishment of the premises including two extensions, increasing the size of the dining room and enabling the home to take care now of some 84 residents in very stylish surroundings.  Entertainment was provided by the Haywood Sisters and Isleworth Town School pupils; Hounslow’s Mayor cut a colourful ribbon and everyone enjoyed excellent refreshments including a cake decorated on top with a facsimile of a building.

Finally, congratulations are due belatedly to Bridgelink at Ivybridge.  In June which received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  These were created in 2002 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee and are the highest given to volunteer groups across the U.K. to recognise outstanding work.  It was awarded for supporting and empowering a multi-cultural community in an area of economic deprivation.